War of Intervention in Angola

War of Intervention in Angola

Adrien Fontanellaz
ARRSE Rating
0.5 Mushroom Heads
With a possible British Army deployment to Mali next year this book is a timely reminder that war in Africa is different. The vast distances, disperse populations, weak infrastructure and varied terrain render the concentration of force difficult and logistics challenging. I sat down to read this with great anticipation.

The book starts well enough with a review of how the participants got to the state they were in 1976. The war in Angola was a three-way affair with an alphabet soup of participants; the MPLA, FNLA and UNITA all sought to overthrow the colonial power (Portugal), unfortunately as rivals. This had been achieved by 1976 and the MPLA was in control. The MPLA’s armed forces, FAPLA, were largely ex Portuguese regulars, now being supported by the Cubans and trained by their advisors, (referred to as the MMCA) and the Soviets (referred to as the SMMA). The advisors’ efforts were not always well coordinated and at times it’s all a bit like Monty Python’s Judean People’s Front.

By way of further complication, the South Africans were also involved. They had been supporting UNITA against the MPLA and were simultaneously engaged with SWAPO, some of whose forces were based in Angola while liberating what is now known as Namibia.

Navigating though such a complex war was never going to be easy; I’m afraid this book makes it look very difficult. For a start it is too short, at just 72 pages (A4 sized) of which 10 are given over to drawings of some of the equipment deployed, a couple more to large maps. Most pages have a couple of poor quality black and white photographs on them.

The author flits from high level to almost observe detail. Is it really relevant how many 57mm rockets were fired in one particular sortie (among hundreds)? Worse, the maps (which never have a scale) do not support the text – ludicrously the map in a section entitled The Benguela Railway has neither Benguela nor the railway marked.

The net result is that this is a very hard book to read, and far harder to enjoy. More are promised in this series (this is number 34) but I won’t be reading them.

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